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John Oliver’s weekly show, “Last Week Tonight,” is known for being funny while also being enlightening, but the show uses language and imagery indicative of a premium cable channel, so be forewarned if you click our source link and play the video. With that said, Oliver’s look at the bail system a couple of weeks ago is astounding, and it really drives home the point that this system is broken.

Here’s how bail works. If you are accused of a crime, you may be asked to put up bail as bond to get out of jail as you await trial. If you can pay this amount, it will be returned to you when you show up for court. But if you can’t pay this bail, you will have to await your trial in jail.

This leads to a very obvious problem: many people can’t pay their bail, and so they are sitting in jail even though they are innocent until proven guilty. This also leads to people just pleading guilty — even if they aren’t guilty — just to get the case over with quickly. And of course this “plead guilty” strategy compounds the problem. Now these individuals have a criminal record, and it can ruin their future forever.

The bail system is inherently unfair, favoring those with money while simultaneously forcing many who don’t have money to give up their right as innocent until proven guilty just to avoid staying in jail until their trial comes around. Hopefully, someday soon, this system will be greatly reformed.

Source: Slate, “John Oliver Explains, With Lots of Jokes, Why We Need to Overhaul the Bail System,” Laura Bradley, June 8, 2015

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